UPDATE - May 24, 2019: The Kenyan High Court decided to leave the anti-gay law in place.
It's a missed opportunity for justice for all Kenyans and a reminder that the path to equality is long.
We will continue standing with the Kenyan LGBT+ community until this battle is won.


Same-sex conduct is illegal in nearly 70 countries, almost half of them in Africa.

In Kenya, same-sex conduct can lead to up to 14 years in prison.
The anti-gay law is a remnant of British colonial rule that was incorporated into Kenyan law after the country gained independence.

Kenyan activists have been fighting to repeal these laws for years - and they’re closer to reaching this
goal than ever before: In February, Kenya's High Court was expected to decide whether the anti-gay law is unconstitutional. The decision has been postponed to May 24.

A victory for LGBT+ Kenyans would be of historic importance and could send out positive shockwaves across the entire African continent.

All Out reached out to LGBT+ Kenyans ahead of the ruling and asked how the law affects their everyday lives.
Their stories are a powerful reminder that no one should be criminalized for who they are or who they love.
Listen to their voices and help make them heard around the world by sharing this page.


My names is Maryeve, I’m 23 years old and from Nairobi.

As much as there are amazing activists and allies in court working so hard to get the laws changed and ensure that same-sex conduct is decriminalized, away from the limelight, away from the sight of the media, where the most vulnerable people exist, attacks, evictions, threats of violence and even threats of murder are still happening.

When the court pushed the ruling date a further three months, there was a spike in the violence, stigma and discrimination that people in our community faced. Some of my close friends and I have been harassed, marginalized and discriminated against due to my sexual orientation. This has become a part of our everyday existence in Kenya. We are discriminated against due to something that is not within our control. Discriminated against by our fellow Kenyans. This discrimination comes from the rest of the society who believes that they can do so because we are “criminals” by law.

I have had friends avoid me like the plague because they know that I am queer. I do not want this to happen to me anymore. I do not want this to happen to anyone else because of their sexual orientation. I cannot wait for the courts to rule in our favor. If they do this, it would mean the freedom to love and to be loved. It would bring me and my peers the protection that we have always sought for. Protection against homophobia. Protection against hate. Protection against those who wish to harm us for being who we are. I would feel a lot more than protected. I would feel validated.

My name is Emanuela. I’m 30 years old and I live in Busia County close to the Ugandan border.

Most people in my county do not understand what it is to be of a different sexual orientation or gender identity. This is the reason why it is incredibly difficult for me to exist here as a transgender woman.

Most days, I am unable to express myself. I don’t have any spaces where I can be who I am. Most people in my county do not have any information about who I am and who people like me are.

Earlier this year, my colleagues and I visited a health facility to conduct a sensitization forum. I personally faced incredible stigma from the health workers there. They referred to me as a “mental case”. I am not a mental case. I am unapologetically me. These laws have taken space away from me. Space to exist as a Kenyan, space to exist as a transgender woman, space to exist as a woman. People have threatened to take my clothes off to prove my gender. I am at a high risk of not only stigma but violence and I am afraid.

I did not choose my gender identity. I did not wake up one morning and decided to be who I am. Who I am, has been a long and treacherous journey. A journey with moments of joy, but many more moments of hurt and pain. I have had preachers pray so that my gender identity conforms to what is “normal”. Those prayers did not make a difference.

Having said that, I am really looking forward to a ruling in our favor. I understand that any change will not come immediately. There will be a longer journey that we will have to travel in order to get to the point where we are all accepted. The judges will not immediately stop the “boda boda” rider in my rural town from throwing stones at me for being transgender. But they will have started one of many steps to ensure that the society accepts me for who I am.

As a lesbian who discovered herself at a very young age, the laws criminalizing same-sex conduct and everything that has resulted from them have killed everything that I have stood for. I have often dreamt of being in a leadership position. I have dreamt of being in politics, I have dreamt of being a public figure. I know I am good at all these things. But these laws are killing all these dreams.

I lost interest in pursuing leadership and political positions a long time ago because I knew I could never stand a chance. I have grown to be reluctant about being employed because I know how much my mental health would suffer working in a homophobic environment. I know that most employers would not want to be associated with me as that might hurt their business.

If the laws change however, I would feel like a caged bird that has been set free. There is a lot I would love to do with my life in regards to self-development, financial empowerment and social networking. This would be for the benefit of many people like me who suffer under the effects of these laws. We would all be able to come out and be ourselves and our sexual orientation would no longer be a hindrance for growth.

My name is Africa. I’m from Kisumu and I’m 23 years old.

The laws criminalizing same-sex conduct have given the Kenyan society an assumption that people who engage in these acts should be treated badly. The society has used these laws to strip human beings of their dignity. When persons suspected of engaging in same-sex conduct are subjected to anal examinations to “prove their homosexuality”, this not only strips them of their dignity but also their very humanity.

When I was a student, I didn’t personally feel the effect of the laws. However, since I left school and from the conversations I have had with my friends, they have made us feel invisible. Invisible and illegal. We have been made to feel like an abnormality in the Kenyan society.

I am hopeful for a positive ruling on May 24. I am looking forward to a change in the status quo where so many Kenyan citizens have been treated inhumanely due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, something which they have no control over.

The president of Kenya referred to us as “non-issues”. But the stigma and the discrimination that we face clearly shows that we are not now, nor have we ever been “non-issues”. A positive ruling will get people talking about the plight of LGBTIQ+ people in the country. It will give us a much-needed visibility and will kill the presumption that homosexuality is a Western import. This ruling will also push for more laws that protect us from discrimination based on our sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. It will enable us to love who we love without being afraid.

The colonial laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations have turned us into criminals and outcasts not only to society but also to our families. We have been seen and described as pedophiles and demons because society believes that we are possessed and unholy. People think we are sick and they force us to go undergo exorcisms and behavioral change therapy where we are repeatedly told we should change our “disgusting behavior”.

Despite my mother being "okay" with my sexual orientation, she thinks that I should hide who I am from our family and friends because she thinks it is embarrassing to be a lesbian. When I had just come out to her she vowed to pray for me to get a rich responsible loving man. While Kenya is perceived to be a progressive country, I think people still loathe us. On social media, some people threaten to kill gay men and others threaten to rape lesbian women so as to show them how a “real man” feels. Some people think violence will change who we are. We are not safe in Kenya.

When the courts make the right decision, we will be able to seek justice. Justice that is due to us due to the fact that we are human. Justice that is due to us due to the fact that we are Kenyan.

I am not a criminal for being gay. My homosexuality in itself is not illegal, it is only same-sex intimacy that can land me in jail. Not many people know this. Which is why I have suffered discrimination and stigma from the rest of the society. A society which, due to the laws that exist in the country view me as a criminal for being gay.

While I may not have personally experienced the violence, I have seen it. I have seen people being beaten up. I have seen people’s dignity being thrown in the trash because of the fact that they are gay. There have even been people who have been killed over the fact that they are gay.

While I may not have personally experienced the violence, I have seen it. I have seen people being beaten up. I have seen people’s dignity being thrown in the trash because of the fact that they are gay. There have even been people who have been killed over the fact that they are gay.

The law in Kenya criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct. The law in Kenya is a form of homophobia initiated by the State that is supposed to protect all its citizens. I blame the State and these laws for the numerous cases of blackmail against LGBTIQ+ people. These cases go unreported because the victims are afraid of the stigma that will fall upon them.

I want to feel included. I am a Kenyan citizen and I want to feel that the society accepts me for who I am. I want to be allowed to exercise my right to every aspect of being a Kenyan citizen. This includes loving someone of the same gender. I want the homophobic acts that are perpetrated against people like me to reduce. I don’t want people to die because they are gay. I don’t want my friends who live with HIV to die because the added stigma of being gay and HIV positive prevents them from getting the care that they need. Decriminalization will achieve this. And as Kenyans, we will live lives that are in harmony with each other and the rest of the world.
The following stories were collected from anonymous students from different parts of Kenya:

I am 15 and I go to school in Nairobi. I came out when I was 14.
I am 17 and I go to school in Bungoma county. I cannot come out because my parents would kill me.
I am 18 and I go to school in Kisumu county. I was outed by my headmaster in front of all the students at the school assembly.
I am 16 and I went to school in Nyeri county. My family pulled me out of my school because I was caught kissing another boy in my dormitory. The other boy and I were publicly flogged within the school compound.
I was 17 and I went to school in Kitale county. They all taunted me until I could not take it anymore.

The physical injuries and mental anguish we all face in our schools due to our sexual orientation is no secret. Most Kenyans know of a school where one of us has been to. Most Kenyans have seen media stories of us being suspended or even expelled from our schools because we were suspected of having same-sex conduct. Most of our stories don’t even see the light of day. But every day, one of us is spotted, insulted, beaten, suspended, expelled, and in some cases, we take our own lives. But because we are underage, we have no voices.

All this is because of the laws that criminalize same-sex conduct. These laws allow for our teachers to treat us the way they do. They allow for our fellow students to taunt and harass us without the fear of punishment. We want the laws to change. Our teachers will know who we are. Our fellow students will engage with us in ways that are not discriminatory or stigmatizing. We will finally have a voice.

My name is Andrew. I’m 30 years old and I’m from Nakuru.

The sections of our penal code that criminalize same-sex conduct affect every single Kenyan. What they essentially do is legislate on things that consenting adults do in their bedrooms. They basically legislate on what two adults, of whatever gender, everywhere in the country, should or shouldn’t do in the privacy of their own homes. This is the status quo of our country as it is. It is very volatile. Since we as a minority group are challenging the thoughts of the majority, the perceived threat that this causes can result in fear which then causes bullying, harassment and violence towards people due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Should the court rule in our favor, it would mark the beginning of inclusion of LGBTIQ+ persons in the communities that we live in. It would also be a chance for Kenya to appreciate the immense diversity that exists within its population and accept all minorities irrespective of their numbers. It would be a first step in giving equal rights to ALL Kenyans.

Hi, I’m Muga. I’m 27 years old and I live in Kiserian, a settlement in Kenya's Rift Valley Province.

The laws criminalizing same-sex conduct are arbitrary and inconvenient at best. A relic left over from colonial rule in Africa. The have affected the LGBTIQ+ community in Kenya negatively over time. They have served as a tool to surveil and dehumanize members of the community, making access to basic healthcare a herculean task and hindering free expression of self and love.

Given the global standing that our country is at the moment, LGBTIQ+ rights here are way behind. While I recognize that we are better off than most of the other countries in our region, that is not enough. We should not accept laws that were left over from colonial rule, that have been masked by Western and Eastern religion and that have been rejected by the very people that put them in place.

If the Kenyan Courts rule in favor of the LGBTIQ+ community, that would be the first, significant albeit small step towards the humanization of a subsection of the country’s citizens who belong to the community. It would also enable us to better engage with the protection of members of the community from violence, oppression and other forms of discrimination.

There are very few ways in which I can express myself and my love in Kenya. My partner and I have to introduce each other as “my good friend” to others. There are very few spaces that are created by queer people where it’s safe for us to be ourselves.

This limitation includes access to basic services like education and health. Service providers treat us like second class citizens. Some service providers do not have the capacity to understand the needs of some of us, especially when it comes to sexual and reproductive health for LGBTIQ+ persons. The laws have made us live very guarded lives.

People rarely talk about the mental health implications of the law. Being constantly told you’re worthless and having society, empowered by the state, violate your rights can have a very negative effect.

This is why if the court rules in our favor, the acknowledgement of our existence will go a long way in improving the mental health of many individuals who have been hidden for so long. There will be more avenues for us to engage in and there will be weight in our advocacy and in educating people in the sectors that touch our lives. This ruling would be a validation of our existence.

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